All posts by Morgan Benzian

About Morgan Benzian

Morgan is a blogger and freelance writer living in Southern California with her two daughters and flock of backyard chickens. She is also the Associate Editor for mint.com and the Quicken blog. Her work has been featured on WSJ.com, Slate.com, The Huffington Post, and San Diego Home and Garden Magazine. In her spare time she enjoys fake shopping online, writing love letters to Ryan Gosling, and avoiding folding laundry.

Heart shaped avocado half on wooden background

What Organic Foods to Buy and What To Ignore

An apple a day keeps the doctor away…right? Maybe not. According to the Environmental Working Group, apples are just one of 12 commonly eaten fruits and veggies that have high traces of chemical pesticides, even after they’ve been peeled and pulped for your baby. The answer? Give children organic forms of these produce. Sticking to organic versions of foods like lettuce, potatoes, strawberries, and grapes—in fresh, juiced, and even dried forms—can reduce exposure to pesticides by a whopping 90%.

Organic versions of eggs, meat, poultry, rice, dairy products and baby food are also a much safer bet than their chemical-laden counterparts. On the other hand, when it comes to a score of other produce, plus pasta, you can safely buy non-organic. You can also keep costs down by shopping at farmer’s markets, food coops, and discount chains like Trader Joe’s, and by opting for locally grown and in-season items whenever possible.

Here’s the EW’s list of the “dirty dozen” foods to buy organic, and the dozen that will not give your baby a dose of pesticide if you buy conventional varieties:

12 Foods to Buy Organic

  • Apples
  • Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Grapes (that means raisins and juice too)
  • Lettuce
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Plus: eggs, meat, poultry, dairy, baby food, rice.

12 Organic Foods You Don’t Need to Worry About

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Frozen Sweet Peas
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Onions
  • Pineapples
  • Watermelon
Little 2 years old boy, hugging and kissing his mother, with affectionate gesture.

Five Questions to Help You Find a Green Pediatrician

From “How do you treat ear infections and eczema?” to “What first foods do you recommend?” here are five crucial questions to have ready in your pediatrician search – and the answers you should be listening for if you want to raise a “green” baby.

1. What ‘s your advice about introducing solid foods?

If the doctor tells parents to start with processed white rice-flour cereal or processed conventional jarred foods, she may still be in a 20th-century medical mind-set. But give her a chance! Ask her advice about introducing whole grains, fresh tastes, or organic foods. Green pediatricians are often better informed than other doctors about the nutritional value of less processed foods, and they care about putting their young patients on the road to good eating habits.

2. How do you treat ear infections?

If the doctor tells you that all ear infections should be treated with antibiotics, he may be behind the times. The Academy of Pediatrics now says that ear infections will often heal better without antibiotics (but pain relief should be given for the ear pain). One of the first steps that pediatricians tend to make in the “green” direction is to reduce the use of antibiotics in their practice. Resistance to antibiotics through overuse is becoming a global problem.

3. How do you recommend treating eczema in babies?

If the doctor recommends using steroids or prescription drugs, she may not be thinking green. Often, a better first approach is to reduce the baby’s exposure to eczema triggers – whether these are foods or environmental triggers like toxins – or to gently moisturize the baby’s skin. Green-oriented physicians are more likely to treat the cause rather than just the symptoms and will try to opt for the gentlest treatment possible.

4. What kind of baby shampoo do you recommend parents use?

If the doctor mentions a conventional brand, he may not yet be thinking about sustainable and pure products. If he mentions a greener option, that’s a good sign that he is at least aware of the variety of greener options for common baby products. Of course, greener baby products tend to cost more (although large natural-foods chains are starting to sell their own, less expensive pure products); perhaps the doctor has suggestions for baby-care products you can make at home.

5. Do you believe it’s worth buying organic foods?

If you can comfortably ask the doctor whether she buys organic for her own family, all the better. Often, physicians will start making moves toward a more green lifestyle in their own lives before they start integrating them into their practices. If they have made even small steps, they may be more supportive of your efforts to raise your baby green.

Other things to look for

You can also get some insight into how green a doctor’s office is by stopping by simply to observe. Are energy-efficient bulbs used? What kinds of cleaners are used? (A strong scent of bleach or ammonia is a tip-off that green cleansers are not in use.) At home, you can learn a lot about some physicians and their practices by looking at their Web sites and talking to other parents.

Relaxed sporty pregnant woman sitting in a park bench for resting after outdoor workout. Pregnancy successful healthy fitness lifestyle concept.

Top Tips When Preparing For Birth Of Your Baby

Now that you’re in your third trimester, Baby’s arrival feels like it’s around the corner. So much to do, so little time! You’ve got your energy back, but how are you going to get everything done before you meet your little one face to face?

From picking a baby name to selecting a pediatrician, put down your to-dos on paper or your computer. Lists make the future feel manageable and allow you to get a complete snapshot of everything that needs tending. Divvy up the tasks with your partner and put your names next to each item, with a time for getting it done. A good number is six daily chores for each of you and a check-off before bed. “My lists helped us to organize and accomplish everything from choosing a car seat to organizing the baby clothes,” says Lisa, a San Francisco mother of three. With your task-management system in place, you’ll find you can give yourselves important downtime, too.

Communicate

Prepping for baby is a team effort, so talk to your partner about everything, from where the newborn will sleep to what your childcare arrangement will be. Your partner can take on everything you can – excepting a few fundamentals, like breastfeeding and birthing, of course. Things you should cover include adding the baby to your medical insurance and deciding who will send a Baby Bugle birth announcement e-mail – a perfect job for one of the new grandparents or your best friend.

Reach out

Everyone wants a piece of your joy, so don’t be shy about asking those close to you to pitch in. You can be specific about your needs without sounding pushy (or plaintive, as in the unhelpful, “Do something, anything…”). Telling your partner, “It would really help me if you could shift the washing to the dryer,” lets him know that he’s needed and valued. Asking your mother to take your toddler for an hour or two while you run errands involves her in the preparations – and gives you a breather. And don’t forget younger helpers. “My 14-year old niece Anna was invaluable,” says Lauren, a New York mom who was on bed rest. “She stayed with us over a weekend and helped sort the baby clothes into sizes.”

Split your days into manageable chunks of time.

“I always made my doctor appointments first thing in the morning to clear the day,” says Beth, a mother of four in Illinois. Allow two hours for a specific task, such as clearing out a closet, then stop and switch to something else. If you’re taking time off work, meet your partner for lunch to register for baby gifts. If weekends and evenings are your prep times, invite friends over for a cook-in. Together, you can prepare meals while you socialize – and freeze what you make, so you’ll have plenty of ready-to-eat meals when you need them.

Set limits for what you take on

It’ll be good practice for the years ahead. “I just can’t manage that right now,” is a great way to say ‘no’ nicely. “It’s too much for me,” lets the other person know that you have your hands full. Telling yourself enough is enough can mean a quick iPod time out, or leaving the office early and bringing work home, where you can put your feet up and take breaks as you need them.

This information is not a substitute for personal medical, psychiatric or psychological advice.

Beautiful young woman emotion shock funk isolated on white background isolation

I Ignore My Toddler’s Developmental Milestones

It’s true. I’ve managed to pull another Mom Fail.

Annie just turned 19 months old. About a month ago I got a card from her doctor’s office that stated, “Hi There! Not to bother you, but usually by this age your child has had a check up. Call us for an appointment ASAP. Kaythanxbai.” Ok, maybe it didn’t say that verbatim, but you get the point.

So, I took Annie to her 18-month appointment when she was 19 months old and I learned two things:

  • Apparently, there are several developmental milestones that occur between the ages of 12 and 18 months.
  • I guess I’m supposed to be keeping track of them, because they handed me an entire list of them and I had to check off which ones she had met.
  • And I probably would have known this if I had taken her to her 16-month appointment. WHOOPS!

Then I remembered that I actually signed myself up for those <insert popular baby-centric website name here> email updates that are supposed to remind you of all the things you need to get freaked out about  keep on top of.

Seriously, you guys: Do any of you get those emails?

Because when something like this lands in my inbox, the last thing I want to do is actually read it:

I don’t think I need to explain to you how much jewelry this girl owns:

Then there are the emails like this:

Are you serious? Am I really supposed to do this?

Please tell me someone else’s kid can’t jump rope yet either.

I mean, I know I’m supposed to be making sure my kids are walking and talking and using forks and stuff, but I just want you to know that I haven’t completely dropped the ball. There are other “developmental milestones” I’ve been watching for. For example, by age four Emma should not only know how to open and close the DVD player all by herself, but she should also know how to skip past the annoying “Polly Pocket Rock Band” previews and go straight to viewing “Barbie and the 12 Dancing Princesses.”

And by 24 months Annie should be able to make a decent cup of coffee, which includes two Splendas and lots and lots of milk. Not only that, but her fine motor skills should be developed enough for her to cut a piece of pizza into thirty six 1×1 inch squares. I’m also keeping my fingers crossed that she’ll be able to propertly quarter a grape.

See? Just because I don’t know how many words my baby can say and I’m not sure if my 4-year old knows how to correctly hold a pencil, doesn’t mean I don’t care.

PS: This is the postcard I just got from Emma’s doctor: “Dear Mom, Just a friendly reminder that your soon-to-be 4-year old is due for her annual check-up and booster shots. Get it together woman.”

Mother carries her infant baby during flight.Concept photo of air travel with baby.

When Traveling By Plane, Don’t Forget to Bring Goody Bags

Parents of new twin boys didn’t want to make enemies on their flight. Instead of crossing their fingers and hoping for the best, they made goody bags filled with candy for each flight passenger. Inside each bag was a note declaring that they were speaking for their 14-week-old boys. It stated that it was the boys’ first flight…

Photo Courtesy of Reddit User Gigantomachy

…and that if the other passengers were bothered by their crying and needed ear plugs to “come by and get a pair.”

It was a very sweet gesture-pun intended-by these new parents who have probably heard their share of horror stories from other traveling parents. The passengers had mixed feelings about being given sweets in bags. One user thought it was quite a kind gesture, one that required a lot of time and money on the parents part. Others thought that it was unnecessary, saying, “This is considerate, but aren’t we all adults who can understand that babies are prone to bouts of crying?”

As a parent who has felt the anixety of dealing with both baby AND possible issues from other passengers, I think this was freaking SMART!! Would I do it myself? I’d seriously consider it. It would depend on the flight time and if my child was under the weather or other things that could make them cranky besides the cabin pressure.

Kids, children, doing Valentine's day arts and crafts with hearts, pencils, paper

7 Easy Valentine’s Day Crafts for Toddlers

I am so NOT crafty. That being said, I still like to celebrate holidays with my kids by doing a little art project. It’s fun to see them get into the spirit of whatever holiday is coming up and I love storing the crafts as keepsakes. Plus, I can always pawn them off as grandparent gifts, which really takes a load off.

Whenever I start searching for age-appropriate holiday crafts, most of what I come across looks like it was either done by one of Martha Stewart’s design team or is about as age-appropriate for a 65-year old woman who taught Home Ec for 30 years.

I’m talking toddler crafts here! It’s got to be something really simple, not too messy, and doesn’t require more than 5 mintues of my 2-year old’s attention. You know, a little glue, some markers, and maybe some glitter if I’m feeling crazy.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and I’ve discovered some really cute and easy crafts that my toddler will actually be able to enjoy. Because last year’s diorama depicting the epic rainshower kissing scene from The Notebook didn’t turn out so hot. We’re keeping it simple this time around.

Glitter Handprint Heart

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Valentine’s Day Inchworm Pencils

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Valentine Heart Stamps

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Paper Plate Heart Shaker

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Luv Puppy Paper Bag Puppet

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Heart-Shaped Finger Puppet

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Paper Plate Heart Hat

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Human hands holding opened little glass can of honey and dipper. Front view

5 Pregnancy DIY Skin and Hair Beauty Treatments

Pregnancy is a time of true wonderment: your body is changing in ways that you just can’t keep up with, there is a little miracle going on right inside your tummy tum and the world is full of promise! But what’s with the great big pimple right in the middle of your face? What’s going on with your brittle nails? And where did this hair come from?!

Treating these issues can be tricky because of chemicals found in beauty products that can be harmful to baby. The most common to avoid are retinoid, salicylic acid and phthalates, all of which have been found dangerous to a developing fetus.

Not to fear, we’ve rounded up a list of the most common pregnancy side effects ans simple homemade solutions.

Acne

What is it?

Teenage years flashbacks? Unfortunately acne might make a re-appearance while pregnant.

Why is this happening to me?

Puberty hormones kick into high gear again during pregnancy. Often that “glow” is just oily acne-causing skin. However the acne will clear up after the baby is born. More good news : for women who suffer from adult acne, pregnancy could possibly clear up your skin.

What to do?

Wash your face morning and night with a gentle cleanser. Avoid oil-based makeup products. Avoid accutane during pregnancy.

Buy it

Kiss My Face, Clean for a Day (pack of 3) $33  –  This fragrance free gentle cleanser leaves no soapy residue.

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kiss face creame

DIY it

Use 2 parts raw honey to one part sugar for a natural exfoliating face wash. You can add more sugar to when exfoliating your body, be gentle on your face. Wash with warm water and pat dry.

Skin Darkening

What is it?

Skin darkening can occur around your nose eyes, forehead and chin. Known as Cholasma or “pregnancy mask”, this is most visible in women with darker skin.

Why is this happening to me? 

Your body produces more melanin that can cause certain areas of your body to get darker or hyper pigmented. Once again, this usually goes away once the baby is born.

What to do? 

Avoid the sun as this makes Cholasma worse. Always use SPF protection like a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects from both UVA and UVB rays, preferably SPF 30 or more.

Buy it

Tinted face all natural sunscreen SPF 30. This sunscreen is light enough to use under makeup daily.

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skin darkening cream

DIY it 

Make your own sunscreen: Combine 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, 2 tablespoons of bee’s oil, 2 tablespoons of zinc oxide, and 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil in a tin can (like an empty can of beans). Bring a saucepan of water to boil, then place the tin can in boiling water. Bring tin can contents to a boil, stirring until smooth. Pour the mixture into a glass container and let cool.

Hair Growth

What is it?

Bad hair be gone! One perk of being preggers is the fab head of hair you will be showing off. But there is always a balance – while your gorgeous locks are envious, the hair on your upper lip, legs, arms and face can be down right scary!

Why is this happening to me?

Increase of hormones called androgens are responsible for your excessive hair growth. The higher levels of estrogen slow your hairs shedding process so in essence your body is busy making a baby and forgets to shed the hair. Postpartum, some women experience a mass exodus of hair follicles, but don’t fear… it’s all part of the experience and everything will return back to normal in due time.

What to do?

Wash your hair with regular shampoo and conditioner; and talk to your Dr. before using any medicinal hair products. Waxing is a safe method to rid hair in unwanted areas. But remember – just say no to bleach!

Buy it

MOOM organic hair removal with TeaTree oil, $13.39. This organic hair remover that is smooth on the skin and does not leave red irritations behind.

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moom hair care

DIY it

Try this homemade wax recipe.

Stretch Marks

What is it?

Also known as Mama Tiger Stripes, stretch marks are one of the unglamorous effects of pregnancy. Stretch marks typically show up during the last stages of pregnancy in the form of shiny red lines on the arms, breasts, hips and thighs.

Why is this happening to me?

During pregnancy your hips and belly expand to embrace the baby. This happens so rapidly that your skin doesn’t have enough elasticity to keep up with the growth, causing the connective tissues to break up and tear. This in turn causes you tiger stripes… stretch marks.

What to do?

Ultimately stretch marks are genetic, but there are a few things you can do to try to get ahead of the issue. Hydrate. Exercise frequently; toning your muscles helps keep skin firm and healthy.  Moisturize. Products with Vitamin E, shea, cocoa butter and collagen are most effective.

Buy it 

Bella B Tummy Cream Stretch Mark Fading, $16.49. This cream isn’t greasy, so you won’t be left with stains on your clothing.

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bella bee

DIY it 

Moisturize with vitamin E or olive oil. You can even put in a couple drops of an essential oil like lavender or rosemary to give it a safe, beautiful fragrance.

Brittle Nails

What is it? 

Weak brittle chipped nails.  What’s to blame? Let’s say this one together girls… hormones! Some women experience the opposite with strong nails that grow faster than usual.

Why is this happening to me?

Your hormones are the number one cause for your nail weakness but other factors that may be at work are water and dishwashing liquid. Your nails get dry much like your skin and need constant hydration.

What to do?

Keep nails short, remembering to moisturize your hands regularly. Paint your nails with a strengthener that contains Vitamin B or protein. Visits to the nail salon for simple manicures are also safe during pregnancy, as long as the salon is well ventilated and you are not having any ‘tips’ or gels applied. You can also take calcium supplements – the baby will deplete a lot of your calcium in your body, which means there may not be enough for you.

Buy it 

Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream, $7.65. Sweet Almond Oil and Cocoa Seed Butter combine to moisturize and nourish brittle nails.

View on Amazon

burts bee

DIY it

Soak your nails in olive oil or almond oil for 15 – 20 minutes. Preferably after a shower or washing the dishes. Vegetable oil can also be used in a pinch.

Baby food homemade in ice cubes tray ready to be frozen

Tips on Feeding Baby on the Go

Whether you’re heading to Grandma’s for the day, taking a road trip or bringing your baby to a restaurant, planning for your baby’s meals away from home can still include fresh foods. The best strategy for feeding your little one fresh veggies when you’re on the go: Frozen food cubes. Make your own baby food, then freeze it in one-serving sizes. Frozen baby food stays fresh in the freezer for two months.

Here’s how to make and use frozen baby-food cubes :

• You’ll need a travel tote. Buy an insulated lunch bag with a reusable ice pack – like the ones kids take to school – and a set of lidded plastic containers that fit into the tote. Frozen food cubes stay cold in an insulated bag with a freezer pack for about 8 to 12 hours.

• Spoon pureed baby food into ice cube trays. Cover the trays and place in the freezer for 8 to 10 hours, or overnight. When the cubes are frozen, remove them from the trays, place in a storage container or freezer bag and return immediately to the freezer. Label the bag or container to avoid confusion.

• Just before you’re ready to hit the road, select food cubes for your baby’s meals and place them in the plastic containers of your travel tote. If you pack more than one meal or snack, label the container lids with a permanent marker or sticker. Pack them into the travel tote with the freezer pack. You may want to pack a bottle of water, too, since babies tummies are especially sensitive to unfamiliar tap water.

• The frozen food cubes will slowly defrost inside the tote, and will stay cold for 8 to 12 hours, plenty of time to reach your destination.

• Once you’re there, you can let the cubes thaw, put them in the freezer or thaw them for a quick meal. Frozen food cubes take 3 to 4 hours to thaw in the refrigerator and 1 to 2 hours to thaw at room temperature. Or microwave for 30 to 40 seconds to thaw and 5 to 15 seconds to warm if already thawed.

• If you need to defrost a meal for baby while you’re on the road, stop at a convenience store or truck stop – most have a microwave. Airlines will usually give you a bag of very hot water to warm baby food with (just be careful with this bag – the water is usually very hot).

Fruit frozen cubes in an ice cube

Two words of warning

• Always stir and test the temperature of microwaved or warmed food on your skin before serving to your baby.

• Never store frozen food cubes without refrigeration for over 4 hours.

A quick timing guide for frozen baby food

• Takes 8 to 10 hours to freeze.

• Stays fresh in the freezer for two months.

• Cubes stay cold in an insulated bag with freezer pack for 8 to 12 hours.

• Cubes take 3 to 4 hours to thaw in the refrigerator and 1 to 2 hours at room temperature.

• Microwave frozen cubes for 30 to 40 seconds to thaw and 5 to 15 seconds to warm if already thawed.

Sweet Potato Puree – a recipe for Baby on the go

Makes 24 one-ounce servings. Stays fresh for 2 months in the freezer.

Ingredients: 2-3 medium to large sweet potatoes

  1. Prep Wash. Peel and chop sweet potatoes into one-inch (3 cm) cubes.
  2. Cook. Place sweet potatoes and 2 Tablespoons (30ml) of water in a microwave-safe dish. Cover. Cook 8-10 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. They are done if the sweet potatoes can be mashed easily with a fork.
  3. Puree. Place sweet potatoes and cooking juices into a blender of food processor. Add ½ cup (60 ml) of water. Puree. Add additional ¼ to ½ cup (60 – 100 ml) of water, as needed, to develop of smooth texture.
  4. Freeze. Spoon into So Easy Baby Food Trays or ice cube trays. Cover. Place in freezer 8-10 hours or overnight. Remove cubes from trays, place in storage container or freezer bag, and return immediately to the freezer.

To serve, select frozen sweet potato cubes from the freezer, defrost and warm, check the temperature and feed.

baby vegetable puree on wooden background top view.

How to Easily Make Your Own Baby Food

After six months or so on a liquid diet, most babies (and their parents!) are thrilled to start solids. But the introduction to real food can be as confusing as it is messy and fun. How to begin? What to begin with? Which foods will my baby like best and which are most healthful?

No doubt about it: Making your own baby food – be it rice cereal or a minted pea puree- is both more nutritious and less expensive than any store-bought box or jar. It’s also tastier. No time? Zero skills? No sweat. Making baby food is easy and fast; and anyway, you may as well get used to cooking for your kid. You’ll be packing school lunches soon enough!

What You’ll Need

Baby steps to buying organic. Buy fresh, preferably organic, fruits and vegetables. True, organic tends to be more pricey — if it isn’t doesn’t fit in your budget, at least try to buy organic versions of the most pesticide-heavy produce: peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots and pears. (Go to FoodNews.org for a printable wallet-size list or iPhone app.) Pound for pound, babies take in more harmful pesticide residues than do adults; but because they eat far less, one organic apple won’t set you back much. When it comes to less heavily sprayed fruits and vegetables, try to at least buy local, seasonal produce for your baby.

Can your cans. If you want to give your baby a veggie that isn’t in season, choose frozen over canned. Since foods like corn and peas tend to be frozen right after being picked, their nutrient levels will be higher if buy them from the freezer. Plus, the linings of cans often contain bisphenol-A, also known as BPA, a hormone-disrupting chemical that is currently being banned from many made-for-baby items like bottles and formula canisters. Home on the (free) range When the time comes to introduce meat, dairy and eggs, try to choose foods from pastured or free-range animals that haven’t been fed hormones or antibiotics.

Let’s eat! For some great recipes, visit SuperBabyFood.com

Equipment

Don’t go overboard. For steaming the food and then mashing it up, there’s no need to buy a lot of equipment — so you can skip the just-for-baby food steamer or food processor.

food processor

In fact, you may already have all the equipment you need: A metal or bamboo steamer insert for a pot, plus a food mill, processor, or blender (your least costly option) will work just fine.

Freezer faux-pas For freezing baby food, use an ice cube tray marked #2, #4, or #5 on the bottom (plastics with these markings are considered free of unsafe chemicals). If yours are unmarked, you might want to invest in a stainless steel ice cube tray. Safe storage For storing baby food, use glass containers — such as old jelly or tomato sauce jars — rather than plastic, which may contain harmful BPA.

Getting Started

Ask the doctor. Your pediatrician will tell you which foods to introduce and when; you can also visit this site for more info. Think outside the box A common first food is rice cereal. Sure, you can buy boxed cereal, but it can be expensive and may have been on the supermarket shelf for longer than your baby has been alive, plus it might contain unwanted additives and preservatives. And making your own is easy and cheap. Take half a cup of uncooked brown rice (preferably organic), pour it into the blender and grind it to a powder. Put the ground rice in a pot, mix it thoroughly with enough filtered water to make a thin paste, and cook, stirring constantly, on a low heat until it has a nice, creamy consistency. Add more water if it thickens too much — it should look like cooked oatmeal. To serve, put a few teaspoons of the cereal in a bowl and mix in enough breast milk or formula to thin it out — and so the taste won’t be entirely foreign to your baby. And remember, children react differently to first foods. If yours refuses her first spoonfuls of cereal, keep adding breast milk or formula until the cereal is just a shade thicker than the milk, then try again. There’s no exact recipe here, just trial and error.

baby food

Banana-rama. Another great first food is a banana, which is loaded with potassium, and couldn’t be easier to “make”: Break off the tip and mash it in a bowl with a fork. Thin it with breast milk or formula if necessary. An avocado can be prepared the same way.

Perfect purees Pureeing is easy and fast — and you can do large batches whenever you have the time and freeze the leftovers. You don’t even need to cook apples and other fruits before you puree them — just peel them the first few times you offer them to your baby. For vegetables like carrots, beets and greens, briefly steam (cut them into small pieces so they steam faster) until they’re soft. Then place them in the blender with some of their cooking water and puree until smooth. Add more cooking water to the puree if it seems too thick. By the way, greens blend well with other foods, like squash or cooked grains.

Ready for chunks and flavorings?

Love the lumps. When your baby has been eating purees for a while, try feeding him something more textured. Some babies are ready for chunkier purees and finger foods sooner than others.

Texturizing techniques. To make the transition, start cutting down the amount of time you’re steaming and pureeing the food, and thin it out less, too. Depending on your baby’s age — but around eight months, on average — and family history of food allergies, you can also start adding texture to your baby’s meals by mixing in starches like whole small pasta or couscous, or protein-rich grains like millet, amaranth and quinoa — a ratio of one part fruit or veggie to one part grain or pasta is a good bet. Later on, for extra protein, add a spoonful or two of lentils or beans; if you have time, buy them dried and cook them yourself rather than buying canned, since the can linings contain BPA. Check your pediatrician’s guidelines for the correct age to introduce beans.

Cooked couscous in white ceramic bowl isolated on white.
Consider mixing in starches like cous cous to your baby’s food.

Family-style dining. If you eat relatively healthily, by all means let your baby share your meals. If she’s too young to eat everything you’re having, make at least one item per meal that she can eat, and grind or puree it to her desired texture. A baked sweet potato or plain steamed veggies work just as well for babies as for adults, for instance. Once she has safely been introduced to the various ingredients in your meals, just grind up a small portion of your whole dinner and serve it to her. What could be easier?

But how does it taste? As you play with texture, don’t neglect flavor. Try blending fresh mint leaves into pea purees, cinnamon into oatmeal or fruit mixtures, or a little rosemary into meat. It’s a great way to wake up little taste buds.

Hands-on options. Finger food doesn’t have to mean boxed cereal. Try small berries, small pieces of well-cooked meat, beans, peas, pieces of banana and other soft fruits, and small cubes of cheese or tofu. For a full meal, give him small pieces of meat, sticky brown rice rolled into small balls, and cubes of boiled-till-mushy carrot — your baby’s own combination platter! Or try whole-wheat elbow noodles, avocado chunks and beans. The combinations are endless.

Storing

Cube your food. If you don’t have the time or desire to make food daily, pre-make and freeze it. For purees, this is easiest done in ice cube trays. Once the puree is made, pour it into ice-cube trays, and when the cubes are frozen, put them in a container marked with the name of the puree and the date. Frozen purees can last in the freezer for a year. To thaw, place in the fridge overnight.

Pay attention to plastic. Report after report has shown that certain plastics can release questionable chemicals into food, so use a BPA-free ice cube tray and try to store the frozen cubes in glass, not plastic. If you don’t have glass storage containers, use old jelly or tomato sauce jars. Be sure to leave room at the top for the liquids to expand and also so the food won’t touch the lid, which may contain BPA.

 

Toddler in his room

How To Move a Toddler to a Big Bed

A few weeks ago something really big happened in our house, my toddler graduated to a big kid bed. I know. It’s a totally big deal.

I was planning on keeping her in her pack and play (we never used a crib) until she was, I don’t know… ten? Kidding (sort of). But one night I woke up to her standing right next to my bed. I’m not going to lie: it scared the bejeesus out of me.

Well, once a child manages to escape the confines of their crib, it’s time to transition to a toddler bed. Let this story be a lesson to all of you:

My oldest child (now 41/2 years old) jumped out of her crib when she was just 16 months. On her first attempt, she went right over the edge and landed straight on her elbow. I heard the thud from the next room. It was terrible. That little stunt cost us 3 days in the hospital and surgery to put 4 pins in her right elbow.

Stock photo of a young handsome boy sleeping in a bed with light on his face

So if your toddler is even showing the slightest signs of trying to get over the rail, make the transition to a toddler bed NOW. You can also try a crib tent, but there are mixed reports on whether or not they are safe. Also, my oldest was totally freaked out by the thing. After her fall she wanted nothing to do with the crib. Can you blame her?

Needless to say, as soon as my youngest escaped for the first time, I went straight to the garage and dusted off the good ol’ toddler bed.

Now that I’ve transitioned two fairly young children (16 months and 23 months) to a toddler bed, I have to be honest with you: it totally sucks. I really, really, really liked it when I could put them to bed and they didn’t have a way to get out. They could chatter, play, or fuss all they wanted but it was time for bed.

My oldest did a better job staying in her big girl bed, but my youngest just will not settle down. The routine goes something like this: we take a bath, get into jammies, read books, get into bed, and then I can either do one of two things – I can sit in a chair in her room until she is almost asleep, or I can leave the room, and then she gets out of bed about a dozen times or so and then I keep putting her back in until we are both completely wiped out.
It’s kind of annoying.

I thought she would get used to her toddler bed after a few weeks, but we are going on almost a month here, and I am totally over it. I want to put my kids to bed and then be done with it. I have very few luxuries in life and spending an evening alone without my kids in my face is one of them.

Parenthood is full of growing pains, for children and their parents. The constant change is both a blessing and a curse. The good times can be fleeting, but the rough patches aren’t forever. So, just like anything in life, this too shall pass.

Has your toddler moved into a big kid bed yet? How did you ease the transition?